Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Farewell to a Legend, Jim Northrup

I'm a little bit late on this, but I wanted to express my condolences to the family of Jim Northrup. Jim passed away on June 8th, and he will be missed. He was a legend to Tigers fans.

The Silver Fox spent the vast majority of his career playing with the Tigers. 11 impressive seasons with the Tigers, including 1968, when he played in the World Series. He hit 5 grand slams that year. One of those came in the WS, and two of the other grand slams were in consecutive at-bats. That kind of power hitting is the dream of any fan. And Jim made dreams come true for a city that desperately needed them.

In 1967, Detroit saw one of the worst riots in American history. But the city came together for the Tigers, following every pitch, every swing. It gave them a common bond, something to hope for. I wasn't alive for any of this, but I know the history. And I think of all the ridiculous riots that happen when big sports games are lost or even won, yet here was a victory that helped heal unrest and bring people together. Detroit isn't rioting now. Hell, there's hardly anyone even left in Detroit these days. Last year, I'd heard the average selling price of a house was under $20,000. It's sad to see such a wonderful city with such a rich history floundering like this. Remembering the 1968 Tigers and legends like Northrup can remind us that if we find a common bond and a little hope than we can overcome anything. Now I'm getting a little cheesy, but I can't help it. I believe in Detroit and in the magic of baseball. And Northrup is a perfect example of everything that makes this game fantastic.

Even a terrible miscut can't keep the legend of Jim down. His silver hair and pointing bat make any card cool. Did you notice, by the way, that Northrup is pointing the bat at the camera in all of the cards I've posted so far. It's a great pose, and one a power-hitter like Jim deserves to own many times over. I just think it's kind of funny he went for the 3D bat pose every time. Also, the tractor in the background of the 1972 card gives this a blue-collar agricultural feel, which is perfect for Jim, whether he intended it or not.

Jim was born in Breckenridge, Michigan, a town that's pretty much all farms and silos, and it's about 10 minutes away from where I grew up. He went to St. Louis High School, the neighboring town to my home town, and attended Alma College, which is housed in my home town. So, of course, that makes me an even bigger fan of Jim, being the only MLB player to come from so close to Alma. There are plenty of echoes of Jim around Alma, and I'm sure there will continue to be for years to come. He inspired many of us Michiganders and will live on in memory.

I'll end this post with his rookie card, with the young Jim who started off an amazing career.

Thanks, Jim, for giving us hope, for healing a city, for swinging that bat. You'll be missed.

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